Virus Vigilantes

Warming hearts with food, masks and postcards

From selling postcards and curry for charity to acting as pen pals, virus vigilantes are finding ways to support and uplift the community. Chelsea Kiew and Hannah Bock report

More than 80 hawkers, such as Bedok 69 Traditional Wanton Noodle (above), have signed up with Belanja Eat, a pay-it-forward initiative that lets participants treat someone to a hawker meal.
More than 80 hawkers, such as Bedok 69 Traditional Wanton Noodle (above), have signed up with Belanja Eat, a pay-it-forward initiative that lets participants treat someone to a hawker meal. PHOTOS: BELANJA EATS, PROJECT POSTCARD, WHEELS ON THE BARS, CHEFJASONTAN_ SG/INSTAGRAM, CANIGO.SG, CHUENKAMON SONNA, LETTERS.FOR.JOY/ INSTAGRAM, ST FILE

1 PAY IT FORWARD WITH MEALS

Belanja Eat is a pay-it-forward initiative that lets you "belanja" (Malay for treat) someone to a hawker meal.

Belanja-ers and belanja-ees can visit the initiative's website (belanjaeat.com) and use the map to find a stall nearby. From there, either sponsor or request a meal.

Since the project's official launch on April 10, more than 80 hawkers have got on board and an estimated 300 meals have been donated.

Public servant Michelle Tan, 35, coordinator of the project, says: "Belanja Eat intends to make a free meal readily available to anyone who needs it. We hope to get the word out and reach out to as many as we can."

2 PACKETS OF CHICKEN RICE

There is nothing more quintessentially Singaporean than supporting the community with the country's national dish: chicken rice.

Mr Khoo Leng How, owner of House Of Chicken Rice in Tanjong Pagar, is offering chicken rice at 90 cents. Patrons above age 55 enjoy a packet for free.

The 40-year-old says: "Everyone is suffering because of Covid-19, so I wanted to do my part. I also wanted to pass on the kindness of my landlord. He waived rental for March and the next two months."

Mr Khoo has prepared an average of 450 packets a day since April 4. He intends to do this until his savings run out or the end of this month - "whichever happens first".

3 BUY A POSTCARD, SUPPORT A MIGRANT WORKER


PHOTOS: BELANJA EATS, PROJECT POSTCARD, WHEELS ON THE BARS, CHEFJASONTAN_ SG/INSTAGRAM, CANIGO.SG, CHUENKAMON SONNA, LETTERS.FOR.JOY/ INSTAGRAM, ST FILE

Youth are supporting the migrant worker community one postcard at a time with Project Postcard (project postcardsg.com).

An initiative by School of the Arts alumni, the team will be selling postcards featuring original art. The proceeds will go directly to supporting projects by the non-profit Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics.

Postcards will also be given to migrant workers for them to write home to their loved ones.

Mr Russell Chong, 19, head of the project, says: "We were struck by news on the rapid spread of the virus among the migrant worker community and their alarming living conditions.

"The migrant worker community in Singapore has contributed immensely to the development of our country. This is our way of giving back."

4 BUY A DRINK, HELP A BAR STAY AFLOAT


PHOTOS: BELANJA EATS, PROJECT POSTCARD, WHEELS ON THE BARS, CHEFJASONTAN_ SG/INSTAGRAM, CANIGO.SG, CHUENKAMON SONNA, LETTERS.FOR.JOY/ INSTAGRAM, ST FILE

Wheels On The Bars (wheelsonthebars.sg) is an initiative that aims to support bartenders by "bringing bartenders to the heartland". This includes providing free listings for bars to help them generate traffic to their websites as well as processing and delivering orders made on the platform itself.

All of the proceeds will go to participating bars, which include Employees Only and Atlas.

Ms Sarah-Jane Chua, spokesman for the initiative, says: "We are ordinary Singaporeans who enjoy a good drink from time to time and we see it as part of our social culture. We hope to play our part in supporting these local businesses."

5 CHICKEN CURRY FOR CHARITY


PHOTOS: BELANJA EATS, PROJECT POSTCARD, WHEELS ON THE BARS, CHEFJASONTAN_ SG/INSTAGRAM, CANIGO.SG, CHUENKAMON SONNA, LETTERS.FOR.JOY/ INSTAGRAM, ST FILE

Last weekend, the former executive chef of one-Michelin-starred Corner House Jason Tan, 37, raised about $1,500 for Fei Yue Community Services by selling 150 servings of chicken curry.

The slightly spicy dish has a rempah (spice blend) which calls for long hours of continuous stirring.

It is a speciality of his 65-year-old mother, who rules the kitchen of their three-room flat. His older brother and father also helped to prepare the servings.

6 CANIGO.SG


PHOTOS: BELANJA EATS, PROJECT POSTCARD, WHEELS ON THE BARS, CHEFJASONTAN_ SG/INSTAGRAM, CANIGO.SG, CHUENKAMON SONNA, LETTERS.FOR.JOY/ INSTAGRAM, ST FILE

Do you have a question about the circuit breaker? Canigo.sg may have the answers.

Users select from a drop-down list of activities such as "get bubble tea" or "visit my family" to find out if they are allowed to do so.

The website has had about three million page views since it was launched on April 8 by Singapore Polytechnic lecturer Jaffry Jalal, 44, and his wife Grace Tan, 40, a user experience director. They update it regularly, with their 11-year-old daughter Eliza sometimes pitching in to type out the answers.

"We were mentally compiling a list of places our elderly parents should avoid and realised there seemed to be a lot of confusion online, so I started building this reference," said Mr Jalal. "We're just happy to be of some use to someone out there."

7 MEALS FOR MIGRANT WORKERS


PHOTOS: BELANJA EATS, PROJECT POSTCARD, WHEELS ON THE BARS, CHEFJASONTAN_ SG/INSTAGRAM, CANIGO.SG, CHUENKAMON SONNA, LETTERS.FOR.JOY/ INSTAGRAM, ST FILE

Last Saturday morning, 24-year-old Chuenkamon Sonna was up before sunrise, preparing 50 boxes of Thai basil chicken rice with her chef mother and 22-year-old younger sister.

Around noon that day, her father, who works as a construction superintendent, distributed the meals to some migrant workers he knew in Serangoon Gardens.

The university student says her family, who is from Thailand, wanted to do "something small to brighten their day" after hearing news of workers falling ill and being quarantined in cramped dormitories.

8 POSITIVITY PEN PALS


PHOTOS: BELANJA EATS, PROJECT POSTCARD, WHEELS ON THE BARS, CHEFJASONTAN_ SG/INSTAGRAM, CANIGO.SG, CHUENKAMON SONNA, LETTERS.FOR.JOY/ INSTAGRAM, ST FILE

Social distancing does not have to be isolating. If you want to connect with someone new, try dropping a message to lettersforjoy@gmail.com. You should receive an uplifting letter from one of its volunteers within five days, according to its Instagram page.

The initiative was started by 28-year-old Petrina Yuen to promote mental-health awareness and spread positivity within the community. She chose letter-writing as it is an activity with a low barrier to entry, which "anyone can do to make a difference".

9 SUPPLYING SURGICAL MASKS


PHOTOS: BELANJA EATS, PROJECT POSTCARD, WHEELS ON THE BARS, CHEFJASONTAN_ SG/INSTAGRAM, CANIGO.SG, CHUENKAMON SONNA, LETTERS.FOR.JOY/ INSTAGRAM, ST FILE

Since becoming a Singapore permanent resident 10 years ago, Mr Xu Songqing, 50, has wished to "make a contribution to the country".

In October last year, the Hong Kong businessman became the chairman of non-profit organisation Lions Club Of Singapore Nanyang, which engages about 6,500 senior citizens here in various activities.

In a show of support for Singapore's healthcare workers, he donated 10,000 surgical masks to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital last Friday in the organisation's name.


Correction note: The article has been edited to accurately reflect where House Of Chicken Rice is. We are sorry for the error.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 20, 2020, with the headline 'Warming hearts with food, masks and postcards'. Print Edition | Subscribe